next they’ll put commercials in my dreams

Having started my professional career in the field of sales and marketing, I have something of a hobbiest’s interest in the ways in which companies try to sell their services and products to me. I was recently reminded of an article I read in the Harvard Business Review, where author John Philip Jones, wondered "if companies are spending more money than ever on advertsing…why are the results so disappointing?" He continued by stating:

"Research indicates that only about a third of all ad campaigns have a significant immediate impact on sales, and fewer than a quarter have any prolonged effect. That’s a shocking record….
There’s a simple reason for the problem: advertising has fallen off top management’s plate. Most ad decisions are now relegated to low-level marketing functionaries who are more concerned with selling proposals up the chain of command than with taking risks or achieving excellence."
(January, 2000)

Perhaps this would explain why, at a recent lunch in the Cheesecake Factory, I was overwhelmed with page after page of advertisements for local car rental services, international jewelry lines, and some other random crap that I would expect to fill up the right margin after running a Google search.



According to the Cheesecake Factory website, "Our menu advertising is handled exclusively by Menu Dynamics, an independent contractor." What’s unusual about this statement is the fact that the Cheesecake Factory menu seems to be the only one they can "dynamically" get you advertised in. Not sure how the mechanics of that worked out, but perhaps the independent company is really held by the parent company that created the Cheesecake Factory? It certainly wouldn’t be the first case building interlinked organizations who rely on each other to drive up profits for the overarching corporation.

But seriously! Advertisements for tanning salons next to the list of appetizers? Do companies actually derive any significant sales from this form of advertisement? Granted, as I take a long drink from my Diet Coke, I realize its not as subliminal as product placement – but shouldn’t the restaurant experience be something of a haven from the outside world? Even if it is a chain restaurant, shouldn’t I expect to be able to enjoy my meal without having to have anything pushed on me – except maybe today’s specials?

Cheesecake Factory, I shall now only consume your food from the comfort of my own home, through the miracle of take-out. At least when I’m at home, I can Tivo through commercials…


5 Comments so far

  1. Bin_round (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

    I agree. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to put advertising in menus – esp. if it has no audience impact. Who is interested in the ads, unless you are eating alone and forgot to bring your latest issue of “People” magazine?

    I guess if you were a restauranteur looking to cut costs and if Menu Dynamics is producing these menus for a low cost due to the ads, then it makes good business sense. If you were trying to create an atmosphere, ie. escape to Fiji, the ads would be pretty intrusive.

    It is the Cheesecake Factory after all…

  2. Robis (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

    I wonder when the advertisers will realize that we all suffer from advertising overkill, and more advertising does not mean more potential customers?

  3. Joseph LeBlanc (unregistered) on August 31st, 2006 @ 9:57 pm

    In small towns, many small restaurants will have placemats covered in ads. So it’s not only the corporate tacky types.

  4. Bin_round (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 10:34 am

    There is a difference between Cheesecake Factory and the diner off the interstate or in a small town. I don’t mind seeing the ads on the placemats in a small town – it says something about the businesses that are keeping that town economically viable. That luckily a Walmart hasn’t come by and run those businesses into the ground.

    No, the ads in the Cheesecake Factory menu is just damn tacky and unappetizing. Esp. the ones which hawk cosmetic surgery – while you’re eating that 3,000 calorie meal in one sitting, you can consider liposuction while contemplating the dessert menu.

  5. Smouie Kablooie (unregistered) on September 1st, 2006 @ 2:27 pm

    While the cheesecake factory is not necessarily on my list of “high end” restaurants – I do think that they are a nicer chain restaurant – and if PF Changs can avoid menu advertising, so can they.

    Diners and local restaurants that have placemat menus – god bless their independence and determination. I’m in agreement with Bin_Round on that.

    Robis’ comment is interesting. I agree that we are in a saturated environment. But I can’t decide what bothers me more – static advertising that I can ignore even though it’s all around me – or “guerilla marketing” tactics – which are more creative – but perhaps more intrusive.

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